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The Fannish Life: Supernatural Saturdays With British Hits

Ann Morris talks ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Orphan Black’ and more


Unlike the spring surprise that you’d get from Monty Python’s candy shop, the spring surprises BBC America is delivering are entertaining … and mostly harmless.

Along with long-running hit series “Doctor Who” and Chris Hardwick’s chat show, “The Nerdist,” fans will be treated to the debut of new science-fiction thriller “Orphan Black.”

The season begins March 30.

Over the past few days, I was lucky enough to join media conference calls with “Doctor Who” executive producer Steven Moffat as well as John Fawcett, co-creator and writer of “Orphan Black.” And I was able to get a few juicy tidbits.

“Orphan Black” is the story of Sarah, an orphan who witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks just like her. She takes over the woman’s life thinking that a fat bank account will solve her problems only to find that she’s opened Pandora’s Box.

According to John Fawcett, what makes this story different from others in which someone finds he or she has a clone or clones is that we’ll see the stories of the others whom she finds. Are they clones of Sarah? Is Sarah a clone of one of them?

Not only are there many others, but some are being murdered. This is one of those onion mysteries. You know: It’s got layers.

Sarah, a London-born working class girl, and her lookalikes are played by Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany. Originally, Sarah was going to be what Fawcett calls “Generican,” but when BBC America asked that she be changed to a British girl, it would end up great for Fawcett and his fellow writers because it opened up the possibility that the clones were not just in North America, but all over the world.

I’m certain that we are going to need more than one season of “Orphan Black” to get the whole story. But we’re getting used to multi-year story arcs, aren’t we?

Speaking of long arcs, it may sometimes be difficult to trust The Doctor but you have to trust Steven Moffat when he talks to you about “Doctor Who.”

I asked him if it was more difficult writing about a character someone else had created or about one he had originated. His take on that is that it is about the same either way. Even characters you create become established and you must do and not do certain things with them to keep fans believing in them. Conversely, you must write about characters created by others as if you owned them. You follow a few rules and then go off and do the rest your way.

Moffat won’t tell much about the new season but we will see new villains in the first episode. They are the Spoonheads. The name may sound silly, but from the way Moffat spoke of them, I think they are going to scare the pajamas off us. Moffat commented that it can be hard not taking “Doctor Who” villains past scary into ridiculous, but I think he knows the line that cannot be crossed.

Moffat’s (and my) favorite new series villain is The Silence. Whether or not we’ll be seeing and forgetting we’ve seen them this year, he didn’t say, but we will be treated to the Ice Warriors. We can thank Mark Gatiss for creating a plot that intrigued Moffat so much that he had to let the Ice Warriors come back, even though he had not been all that fond of them before now.

What I am looking forward to is learning about the new companion, Clara Oswald. If you’ve seen The Prequel, you are even more mystified by her than when she was Oswin and the Clara from “The Snowmen.”

I agree with Moffat that the real stories in “Doctor Who” are the stories of the companions. The Doctor never changes, well, not much anyway, but the companions have miraculous, scary and wonderful things happen to change their lives.

And what is Moffat’s favorite episode of “Doctor Who”? That’s an easy one for him: “the next one.”

For those wondering what the 50th anniversary’s effects on this year’s shows will be, Moffat says that there are none. The Doctor must always move forward. “Doctor Who” is not about looking backward. We fans may love to reminisce but not so The Doctor.

Even so, I was hoping to ask for hints about the contents of the 50th anniversary special but time got away and I, along with you, must continue to guess.

Supernatural Saturdays wind up with “The Nerdist.” You never quite know what you’re going to get on “The Nerdist,” but some of the confirmed guests for this season are Seth Rogan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Karen Gillan, and one the one I most want to see, Buzz Aldrin. We’ve been told to expect celebrity games, stand up and interviews of the nerdliest kind.

So, my lovelies, let’s all sit down on Saturday nights with a cuppa, a biscuit and Sarah, The Doctor and The Nerdist.

Saturdays begin with “Orphan Black” at 8 p.m., followed by “Doctor Who” at 9 p.m., and wrapping up with “The Nerdist” at 10 p.m. And all of it is on BBC America.

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